Thursday July 22, 2010 | Answering Back: A Liberal Toolkit

July 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 40 Comments

We live in an age of ever-increasing political divisiveness and our rhetoric reflects that. No matter the topic- trickle-down economics, welfare, social security, health care, immigration control, war, economics- our discourse seems to degenerate into shouting matches using jargon.  Wouldn’t we benefit from a different kind of discussion? Of course. And in his book, Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, David Coates takes a stab at that. We hear what he has to say. Also be sure to join us next Thursday, July 29th for a discussion with the authors of The Young Conservative’s Field Guide.
Dr. David Coates
– Worrell Chair in Anglo-American Studies, Wake Forest Universityand Author of Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments

** Join us Thursday July 29th for a discussion with the authors of The Young Conservative’s Field Guide **

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  1. Please explain how President Obama gets away with claiming Bush left a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit which can only be true if you add TARP which Senator Obama voted for, President Obama spent i/2 of, and has been subsequently paid back while simultaneously taking credit for it saving the economy? Meanwhile, Obama’s first deficit dwarfs anything Bush did.

  2. He “gets away” with it because it’s true. Besides, Reagan, W was the biggest spending and gov’t expanding Republican in modern memory. There is a famous graph that shows Obama’s “worst” of the worst numbers because of the trend set forth by his predecessor.

    As for TARP, check out once in a while. The Obama administration has been posting the data of what these programs are and what the results of them are. I’m sure future presidents will take advantage of this as well.

    Look, the economy(and U.S.) is in big trouble. Our post-war/cold-war leadership in manufacturing, innovation and cultural exports is steadily on it’s way to a conclusion. We don’t make anything anymore. Our innovation is unfortunately becoming iPod’s, Snuggies and ShamWow’s and we don’t even produce those products in the U.S.

    I don’t have an answer for how to fix things, but I’m sure tired to standing around and criticizing so I can temporarily feel better about myself. So, do you have any constructive ideas that don’t point fingers, place blame or recycles media talking points ?

    We’d all love to hear them.

    • I didn’t criticize TARP nor did I say it wasn’t necessary and didn’t work. I just don’t understand how Obama can blame it for the economic woes while crediting it for curing the economy. That’s a fair question. TARP was 700 billion Bush spent 350 billion not 700 billion. He did release the second half for Obama so it would be available for him on day one. It’s been paid back so the point would be moot had Obama not spent the money elsewhere.

      The problem is the 787 billion “stimulus package” that stimulated squat, a massive health care plan (it’s not deficit neutral see the CBO numbers not the preliminary summary), letting the Bush tax cuts expire, raising taxes, over regulating industry and dividing people along the lines of race and wealth.

      As for solutions, it’s not rocket science. Dramatic cuts in spending coupled with tax cuts (especiallly for the rich). I like Paul Ryan’s roadmap but Obama isn’t listening. Obama’s policies have been a disaster and continuing to blame Bush is plum silly. If you think W and Reagan spent too much then criticize Obama for spending more than both combined.

      • With respect, I think Mr. Coates dodged my point which was simple and very specific concerning TARP.
        Despite the facts above, we’ll blame it all on Bush. Did the deficit caused by TARP kill the economy or save it?
        I’m appreciate the invite for a conversation.

      • “Did the deficit caused by TARP kill the economy or save it?”

        Obama is claiming both.

  3. Dr. Coates is a Professor of “Anglo-American Studies”? Interesting, never heard of that field of academic study before. But I suppose with every other American ethnic group having their own academic field or sub-department, i.e. Latino studies, Africana studies, Jewish studies, Asian studies, Slavic studies, etc, it only makes sense that the founding stock of the USA should have its own academic field.

  4. Modern liberalism is nothing more than Fabian socialism at its best or Marxism at its worst. So why not just call yourselves Marxists instead of pussyfooting around the issues and saying you are just a “liberal”?

    The fact is that liberalism has triumphed in every aspect of American – indeed Western – life since about the 1960s or so (some would say even back to the Age of Reason with the American and French Revolutions). Liberalism currently has an absolute stranglehold on the mass media/entertainment, academia, law, public education, and so on – pretty much all aspects of American life that influence the masses are liberal by default, and thus the masses have imbibed this liberalism for decades and are liberal by default.

    The good professor is probably aware of the Overton Window – this window of acceptable discourse has been pushing further and further to the left in the last few decades, and as such things that would’ve been considered insane and/or ridiculous a few decades ago have become a part of normal discourse by the left’s pervasive influence in the mass media and academia, via the normalizing of what were once considered insane far-left ideas. This is also shown by the gelding of modern ‘conservatives’ – many modern ‘conservatives’ would’ve been considered liberals in previous times.

    A major point of hypocrisy of The Left is that it has become the corporatist party it purports to oppose. Obama and other prominent left wingers receive a huge percentage of their funds from Wall Street bankers, huge mega-corps, and so on – much more so than modern Republicans who have become the party of the increasingly dispossessed Caucasian-American middle and working classes. So the Democrats have become the preimary global-corporatist-banker party while still pretending to speak for ‘the little people.’

    All that being said, I don’t consider myself a ‘conservative’ or a ‘liberal’ as both sides and parties are in modern times socially, intellectually, and politically bankrupt, entirely devoid of dynamism and new ideas. True to my deep American roots, I’m an independent.

    • One more thing – the worst aspect of liberalism in my opinion has not been in the realm of politics, but rather in the realm of culture, especially mass-culture. It is obvious that liberals control almost all portions of the culture-creating and culture-spreading American mass-media which has shaped the USA more than about anything else. I don’t necessarily mean newspapers, TV news, radio, and so on (though liberals disproportionately control those sectors), but just about everything else: TV shows, Hollywood movies, the arts, and so on.

      Again, look what has happened to the culture of the USA spread by the liberal mass media in the last few decades. These cultural sectors have become pure trash, degenerate and disgusting in the extreme. We’ve gone from Norman Rockwell to MTV in the blink of a cultural eye. Who can say that modern American TV, movies, the arts, and so forth culturally enrich people instead of drag them down in to the dirt? The fact is that modern American movies and TV – produced overwhelmingly by rootless cosmopolitan liberal relativists – are in many senses anti-cultural, dragging down the general cultural level instead of lifting it up. This cannot be denied. Allowing your children to watch TV these days in America is in many senses a form of child abuse.

      Unfortunately, these increasingly disgusting American cultural ideals which have been created and spread by American liberals have been in many senses adopted by huge numbers of people worldwide, so in a sense degenerate American liberalism has metastasized the world over and semi-ruined numerous traditional cultures. For as much as liberals claim to love diversity of all kinds, why do they insist on creating – nay, forcing – these degenerate liberal cultural ideals on everyone, trying to create a worldwide liberal cultural monolith?

      • Realist: I recently was invited to pre-view Speilberg’s and Lucas’s Rockwell collection at the American Museum of Art in Washington with a docent tour. Media Analysis is my primary area of focus. I came to the conclusion that not only was the commercially motivated Norman Rockwell material pretty trashy, but that monetary speculation by media hogs in it had accelerated its devaluation. I find it somewhat equivalent to the state sponsored realism of the 30s (Hitler and Stalin). America celebrated its commercial hegemony in the 50s and 60s utilizing the type of mythmaking Norman Rockwell was so easily drawn into. A facade of folk purity masks a variety of social injustice. I think the greatest tragedy of reality TV is its artificiality. Hemaneutically sealed from day to day pressures and pleasures the contestants are scripted and manipulated by producers to meet the needs of the sponsors. Viewers heads are thus packed with lies that promote unhealthy consumption. Look hard at the product placements in Rockwell’s work. He never ceased being an advertising artist and was a mediocre formulaic painter working with traced photographs. The most loving detail is reserved for the logos.

    • Excellent Realist, I can’t argue with anything you wrote. I usually can.
      This isn’t your daddy’s Democrat Party.

  5. Hey Mike,

    Check your references at this site, You should forward this site to your friend who sent you the wal-mart propaganda.


  6. If liberalism/socialism is so bad and “limited government” conservatism is so good, then Europe would be an economic and social waste land and Africa, Mexico, and Haiti would be heaven on earth.

  7. Mike, tell your friend if he loves Walmart so much he should try working for them. They treat their workers shabbily. If we privatize everything and apply the Walmart model, we will be reduced to a third world style of living.

    As for the Post Office, we need a system that serves all postal need, not just those things that will make a profit the way that private companies do. It isn’t all about money. We need public libraries need to serve people who want to learn about subjects that don’t have a broad interest – entymology, for example – instead of reading blockbuster novels for entertainment.

    I once heard a conservative pundit point to the history channel as an example of how the private market can replace the educational needs PBS was created to address. Sadly the “History” Channel is now bragging about how it raised its ratings by switching to shows like ice road truckers because younger people want to watch it. The best show about American history to come our recently was the John Adams series on HBO which severely limited its audience. In the 80’s a major network showed Roots, in the 90’s this kind of thing shifted to PBS with shows like Ken Burns’ very successful Civil War series. Now this kind of thing is available only to those who have the resources to pay for premium channels. I strongly believe that our democracy would be a lot healthier if we returned to the day when we were willing to fund this kind of programming and make it available to all. Unfortunately conservatives have been very successful at getting public funding for public broadcasting to be cut to a minimal level.

    • “Unfortunately conservatives have been very successful at getting public funding for public broadcasting to be cut to a minimal level.”

      This is because public TV has become a limousine liberal ghetto where no conservatives dare enter, where they are not even ALLOWED to enter. Employment discrimination against conservatives is rife in public TV and public radio, and they are routinely passed over in hiring, promotions, etc in favor of liberals.

      Public TV and public radio has a lot of good programming (it’s some of the only decent TV left), but monopoly isn’t good for anyone or the nation at large.

  8. Why progressives don’t respond to conservatives?

    Because most conservatives don’t want facts or legitimate debate. You should see my Facebook! In general conservatives want to consume the toxic ooz coming from organizations like Fox news and folks like Rush, Palin, and Beck. There is such a lack of mutual respect and so many vicious verbal attacks that conversation and fact checking is impossible.

    • Great show Mike!!! Wish it was longer.

    • Yes but I know a lot of people in the middle who would listen to facts if only they heard some. My post above refers to this.

      One example that shows me just how pathetic journalists are it the whole “Obama was born in Kenya”. This argument implies that he can’t be president because he isn’t a “natural born” citizen. The media never points out that Obama’s mother was an American citizen, which automatically makes him one. The only way to be a citizen is to be “natural born” or to later go through a legal process of being “naturalized”. American children born abroad do not have to go through that process. My first grandchild was born in Europe and in his mother’s country. He immediately was given an American passport – and ONLY CITIZENS can get them.
      My radically right wing sister-in-law was claiming Obama wasn’t a citizen. When we asked her if that means our grandchild isn’t a citizen she was taken aback. Even she had to concede that one, a very rare occurrence. Our media is lazy and juvenile, preferring to focus on titillating gossip, reporting in a he said/she said manner, obsessing about who is cool (George Bush more fun to have a beer with) and popular and generally behaving like they are in high school.

      The only thing the rest of us can do is write and complain. The other effective tool is to complain to companies that sponsor shows that spew propaganda and/or hate. Conservatives have been doing both of these things with great effect for years. That is another reason journalists are timid about confronting them. I have heard journalists explicitly admit this, saying that even if you know you are only hearing from a vocal minority it is intimidating.

  9. Jesus never spoke about abortion or gay marriage, but he did speak about taking care of the “least of these”, our neighbors, and grace/forgiveness. The conservatives use religion inappropriately to confuse the people and rely on sound bites to rally the so-called religious base. Read any thing by Shane Claiborne or Rob Bell about the grass roots rise of the liberal Christians who are challenging the status quo of modern day American Christianity.

    • Jesus also said:

      “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

      “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:49-53)

      So which version of Jesus do YOU like? The Jesus as traditionally-oriented cultural warrior or Jesus as a peace-loving liberal hippy?

      • Writers put words in graphic novel protagonist Jesus’ mouth nearly 400 years after his supposed death and Resurrection. (King James revised the words to support Gothic Authority. Numbering and titling codified.) I’m sure that had there existed one person called Jesus that he would have known all the variations on mother-in-law jokes. Realist talks pretty swimmy-headed for a realist. Mort Sahl, that’s the Hungry i personality I was recalling, would have made a perfect Jesus in Realist’s Christian movie (real events in real time with free will extant). But then you can get the same effect by redubbing and retitling 2012. John Cusack as Jesus, sort of an Odysseus of the car culture.

  10. Im a liberal southern too. praise god there’s another one out there.

  11. Conservative radio et al is simply propaganda and should be named such by everyone else having a converstation and dialog.

    • I agree that conservative radio is propaganda.

      Do you agree that cable TV is liberal propaganda?

      • No . . . Cable TV is actually garbage.

      • And its garbage because it is cluttered up with awful reality TV and opinion networks masquerading as news networks. Their called books people, try reading them for a change instead of wondering who the next idol will be (WHO CARES?)!

      • And its garbage because it is cluttered up with awful reality TV and opinion networks masquerading as news channels. People should try reading books instead of getting the media’s synopsis of them and then spewing back inane talking points!

      • Sorry for the double post, disregard the middle reply. Thanks!


  13. The answer to the question about Rush Limbaugh is not funding. George Soros? Air America? The answer is obvious, truth and honest debate. Have you ever heard any criticisms of Beck or Limbaugh the challenneged the actual issue without personal attacks or made up quotes? Their success is because they are exactly opposite of what the good host (and guest) portray them as. Strong opinions not personally verified.

    Why not listen then criticize?

  14. Hi Mike – I just wanted to mention that the end of your conversation discussed how there is really no equivalent on the left to the roles Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck play for the right. I disagree. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert serve this role nightly, and they much more power to influence than many conservatives would imagine.

  15. i believe that at the end of the program that the last caller touched on a vital point that deserves more conversation. He commented on the middle third and guest responded. good, i’d like to comment further, the middle here is always where the swing is and its the right and lefts job to persuede the middle so if the “inteligent middle” is the make or brake for the left why does it not hold more control in the discourse. the middle is the power and should there for should control the conversation. Is this not correct? where is the voice and converstaion of this group happening and how do i get to it?

  16. I guess I’ll close the loop, Mr. Coates:

    In my opinion the overarching issue in political discourse is the lack of honest debate. A premise should be built on a solid foundation.
    If the premise is Bush’s deficits caused this mess and Obama is doing the best he can then that’s fine. If it’s Obama’s bold action early on staved disaster then that’s also fine. It can’t be both. Without TARP Bush’s deficits, wars included, are NOTHING compared with Obama’s. If you consider the Executive branch can’t spend a dime, only the Legislature can and then look at Bush’s last Republican controlled budget deficit the picture becomes even more stark. Does that matter? Am I spinning? Where?

    • Dear Gregg
      Sorry not to get back sooner
      Before September 2008, across all the major economies (including ours) fiscal deficits were averaging about 2 percent of GDP. They are now at close to 10%. So Obama’s deficits will be bigger – fiscal deficits are what stopped the financial crisis triggered global depression rather than recession. The best report on TARP, I think, comes from the congressional oversight panel set up for that purpose. The December 2009 report is particularly good, and accessible at
      I’ll try and put up a piece that touches on this on my website later today/tomorrow morning.

  17. So we agree that TARP was bold action supported by Senator Obama and implemented By Bush and Obama. I hope that ends all the belly aching over Bush’s deficits. This is especially true if, as you claim, deficits are the answer.

    As for the “Stimulus package”, it hasn’t worked and it won’t. It was supposed to keep unemployment at 8%, it didn’t. Where has the Keynesian model ever worked? See Greece. Bush also inherited a recession caused by the bursting of the dot com bubble and scandals at Enron and elsewhere. The tax cuts brought in record revenue and the recession was shallow. We weathered the annihilation of the financial center of the universe on 9/11. That is significantly remarkable.

    You are correct in pointing to the percentage of GDP as a bell-whether. The debt is over 90% of GDP and poised to overtake it within the decade. Money is coming in at record lows and going out at record highs. It’s fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable.

    Obama and Biden both repeatedly say they did not know how bad the economy was but during the campaign, they said over and over that it was the worst economy since the great depression. It was not at the time, it wasn’t even as bad as the 70’s. They were claiming it was worse than it actually was and now are claiming they didn’t know it was as bad as they said it was. It makes no sense.

  18. 1. Gregg Smith believes Limbaugh and Beck are “real” people and accepts them as reliable sources. He doubts any of their talking points can be refuted.

    2. Gregg will likely conform entirely to the recommendations of the coming guest Thursday (Hard Right- Young Conservative’s Field Guide) rather than examine issues himself. (though he is no longer young, and is far too commercially minded to be considered “conservative”)

    3. Now we see the mistake WFAE made in taking him at his word and featuring his thesis “Honest Debate”. Baby tantrums and Santa worship after insisting on having one’s way is hardly Honest Debate. And while we’re at it, I don’t think “debate” is the proper intent at WFAE. I prefer that we discuss, guide fellows to reliable sources and ideas, and make friends along the way. Gregg has played the Red Baron long enough, and so I now declare him “crashed” in consequence of his testimony above. Defending demigogues most people agree to be greedy hacks is far from espousing worthy ideas.

    From today forward I will not respond to his posts or acknowledge his critique of mine or others’.
    I have just returned from Geneva where I spent two weeks discussing the dangers and uses of national budget deficits with a variety of parties. I am in the midst of reading and questioning the material suggested to me. It matters not only if the government borrows, but from whom it borrows and how, and also how the borrowed (printed, created) currency is used for constructive social engineering. The Obama Administration pretends not to, or does not, understand these concepts. Europe is in a bind because of the Euro-zone and we are in a bind because out authorities prefer the wrong creditors and waste money on war profiteering. That is about all I’m sure of so far. We’ll talk later.

    • “From today forward I will not respond to his posts or acknowledge his critique of mine or others’.”

      You never have with any specificity, just insults.

      Thanks for proving my point so vividly: “Have you ever heard any criticisms of Beck or Limbaugh that challenged the actual issue without personal attacks or made up quotes?”

      For the record I disagree with many of their views. I would just once like to hear intelligently and honestly voiced opposition to actual issues and statements instead of the mindless, generic, group think, party line, uninformed and meaningless bilge. I think that’s a reasonable request but Mr. Howard is not capable of anything else.

      Good riddance Mr. Howard, you are not interested in the truth or honest debate.

      • In rereading Mr. Howard’s post I realize he has not refuted one single point I made. He once wrote an entire essay about me on the Watercooler. I’m in his head. He doesn’t know how to deal with me on the issues and has now surrendered and will take his ball and go home. Funny stuff. You’d think a fool like me could be easily and civilly proven wrong. What he doesn’t understand is I want desperately to be proven wrong. I am more than willing to stand corrected. I would be thankful for being shown the light.

  19. David Coates has proven himself inadequate to the sorting of our culture wars. The corporate apologetic of WFU is the ideal and most lucrative home for him: A seminary bought by tobacco and converted to a production line for corporate clones. Coates is the type instrumental in the tempering phase of pre-socialization, Freshman and Sophomore students. Hardened fascist dilletantes take over in producing the callus and crass business mind in the Junior and Senior years. Coates should realize he is a liberal curiosity in an oligarchic crucible. He tries to be a social justice advocate but the greedy elite sees only an ape flinging its feces. I’d go home to Britain and quit writing comic books. You were made for better things David Coates. (But will they release you from your cage at this late date?)

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